Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: There's no staying in the middle

  • It sounds like that pendulum may have peaked and may be gaining momentum in the other direction
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  • Voters like the center. They just don’t like staying there.
    There are some voters in America who would love to see the country move very far to the left. About an equal number would prefer to see policies that take the country all the way to the right.
    But most voters are closer to the center with some views that can be found in Democrat political platforms and some that are consistently Republican.
    But due to the nature of the two-party system, we will never stay in the middle. Instead, there is a constantly swinging political pendulum.
    Some of the reason for the political bi-polar syndrome is that many issues are tinged with emotion, religion or nationalism. Very few people are on the fence about abortion or Obamacare. If someone disagrees with you on these issues, it is hard to stay detatched and not have your hackles become a little crimson.
    Also, merely holding that position of leadership can create a de facto glass ceiling for your party.
    Anyone who appears to be jockeying for position to be the next one in the office could be seen in a negative light. Being a supporter of the current representative doesn’t really help you establish yourself as a potential successor in the eyes of voters.
    Being in office has a funny double-edged sword effect on vote suppression. When your party is in office, there is little outrage – unfortunately one of the most effective motivational tools for vote seekers. Things are going the way you want them to. That feeling doesn’t rally the troops.
    Also, those in office are actually doing things. When you do something, about half the people will like it and the other half will have a problem with it. It is easier to run a campaign from the outside when you can just point out all of the things the other person did wrong.
    The party in the leadership role inspires a new crop of challengers every time they pass a bill or fail to pass a bill. Mining for potential challengers is far easier when you can sell them on the idea that they will be able to rectify what they see as policy malpractice.
    I think that is exactly what could happen in Kansas. The Sunflower State has been red for generations.
    But recently, the Republicans in this state have moved very far to the right. Bob Dole isn’t a liberal, but he would be run out of office by today’s Kansas GOP.
    As policy decisions move further and further to the right on the political spectrum, there is a natural momentum that will swing the political pendulum back to the left.
    Page 2 of 2 - I don’t mean a pendulum like Mylie Cyrus rides in risqué music videos.
    Public policy requires force to maintain. Actions like those of the state legislature last weekend, where lobbyists and special-interest groups are allowed to make an end-run around the actual legislative process and attach otherwise unpassable legislation to a school funding bill, are just the type of overreach that can make the political pendulum swing.
    In physics you learn that when a pendulum swings beyond its ability to continue, momentum is lost and the restoring force due to gravity, and the weight of the object itself causes it to swing back in the other direction.
    In a political environment, that process isn’t regulated by gravity as much as it is driven by hubris.
    The fact that Republicans enjoy a super majority in both houses of the state legislature and own the Governor’s office gave the GOP the ability to take away rights that teachers in this state had enjoyed for more than 50 years.
    But having the ability to do it now doesn’t mean there won’t be repercussions in the future.
    Listening to the response from across the state from supporters of education from both parties, it sounds like that pendulum may have peaked and may be gaining momentum in the other direction.
    A recent PPP poll showed Rep. Paul Davis (D-Topeka) actually leading incumbent Sam Brownback in the gubernatorial race 45% to 41%. It’s still early and God (and David and Charles Koch) knows that Brownback will have plenty of cash to spend as the election draws near.
    But there is no doubt that late night deals and outright guile are just the kind of things that can’t stop political momentum and send it swinging in the other direction.
    Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com
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